Building Office Add-ins using Office.js
Building Office Add-ins using Office.js
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Building Office Add-ins using Office.js

Last updated on 2017-08-27

About the Book

This book is about creating Office Add-ins – and in particular, about the new Office 2016 wave of Office.js APIs.

Want to get started with just the very core concepts, before buying the book? Download some sample chapters, or visit http://BuildingOfficeAddins.com, which contains abridged content for some of the key topics in this book. Or better yet, buy the book regardless: I am sure you'll find the topics therein new and useful for writing add-ins; and if you don't, LeanPub's Happiness Guarantee will let you get a full refund anytime in the first 45 days.

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All proceeds from this book will be donated to humanitarian work / disaster relief (and also get matched by Microsoft's generous Employee Match program, for double impact).

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Office 2016 has seen a major re-birth of the API model, with hundreds of new APIs created for Excel and Word and OneNote. These APIs are cross-platform, are built on a modern web framework, and offer some of the same powerful functionality that previously was only available on the Desktop.

In spirit, the new Office.js APIs are reasonably similar to their VBA/VSTO counterparts, but with the notable difference of being async  which brings with it a new set of concepts and best practices. This book will begin by address the core concepts to help you get over the initial learning curve, and get started on using the APIs. The subsequent chapters will expand upon these topics, covering more advanced scenarios, and offering debugging advice, tips, FAQs, and so forth.

Note that this book is published using a "lean" methodology  publishing early, and publishing often.  Since writing the book is strictly my "moonlighting" activity – my day-job is to be a developer on Office.js APIs, not a technical writer – it will take a good long while before I am actually done with all the content I want to write about. I would rather ship an early version of the book, addressing the most common questions and issues that I see folks struggling with, and then keep iterating on it from there.

In buying this e-book through LeanPub (where I’m also discounting it for the "early readers"), you are entitled to free updates to the book. So, expect to see more content appear month-to-month (and, if you sign up for email notification, to receive periodic emails updates about what new content got added).

I welcome any and all feedback about the writing, explanations, code-samples, and whatever else. I also welcome topic suggestions, if you see something I didn’t cover; or, if you see something that I plan to cover, but haven’t yet, just let me know and I can see if I can prioritize it.

Yours truly,

- Michael Zlatkovsky, the author

About the Author

Michael Zlatkovsky
Michael Zlatkovsky

This book is written for Office Developers, by an Office Developer. By the latter, I mean both that I had been a developer who used Office technology extensively for a number of years, and that I am now a developer on the Office Extensibility Platform team – the very team that created Office Add-ins.

Having been a key participant in the design of the new Office 2016 wave of Office.js APIs – and having seen folks embrace the framework, but struggle with some of the more concepts – I wanted to share some insights & techniques, as well as the full end-to-end story, of how to create Office Add-ins.

You can find me on StackOverflow, where I frequently answer questions tagged as "[office-js]" (which has been a source of inspiration for many sections of this book).  I have a backlog of topics I want to cover in this book: some already fleshed out, others less so.  In the spirit of the "lean" methodology, I will be updating the book frequently as I cover more and more topics.  Thanks for reading, and please feel free to contact me for feedback on the book, requests for topics, etc.

Yours truly,

- Michael Zlatkovsky

Packages

The Book
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3 Copy Package

This package is for THREE copies of the book, to distribute among your Dev team, at a small discount. After checkout, in the confirmation/download page, you will see "You have purchased multiple copies of this Book. Click here to manage your download tokens." You can use this to send out the individual tokens to team members. That way, only one person (e.g., a team admin with a corporate credit card) needs to go through the checkout process, and the rest can just download the book.

  • English

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5 Copy Package

This package is for FIVE copies of the book, to distribute among your Dev team. After checkout, in the confirmation/download page, you will see "You have purchased multiple copies of this Book. Click here to manage your download tokens." You can use this to send out the individual tokens to team members. That way, only one person (e.g., a team admin with a corporate credit card) needs to go through the checkout process, and the rest can just download the book.

  • English

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$75.00
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The Book + 1-hour Skype call / coaching

Need some help navigating the world of Office Add-ins? Or want to discuss your business scenario or technological constraints, and hear my suggestions on how I would proceed if I were in your shoes? Purchase this package, and get a copy of the book PLUS a one-hour Skype call at a mutually-convenient time (generally my early mornings, or most anytime in the evenings, or potentially on the weekends, Seattle time). Email me after you've purchased this package (follow the "Email the Author" link from the book landing page), and we can set up some time with your or your Dev team to chat. Like everything else on Leanpub, this package is covered by the 45-day 100% Happiness Guarantee.

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Table of Contents

  • 1 The book and its structure
    • 1.1 The “evergreen”, in-progress book
    • 1.2 Release notes
    • 1.3 Bug reports / topic suggestions
    • 1.4 Twitter
    • 1.5 Who should read this book
    • 1.6 From the author
    • 1.7 A few brief notes
    • 1.8 Acknowledgments
  • 2 Introduction to Office Add-ins
    • 2.1 What’s “new” in the Office 2016 APIs (relative to 2013)?
    • 2.2 What about VBA, VSTO, and COM Add-ins?
    • 2.3 “But can Office.js do XYZ?”
    • 2.4 A word on JavaScript and TypeScript
    • 2.5 Office.js: The asynchronous / deferred-execution programming model
      • 2.5.1 Why is Office.js async?
      • 2.5.2 What is meant by “the server”
  • 3 Getting started: Prerequisites & resources
    • 3.1 Script Lab: an indispensable tool
    • 3.2 The optimal dev environment
    • 3.3 API documentation resources
  • 4 JavaScript & Promises primer (as pertaining to our APIs)
    • 4.1 “JavaScript Garden”, an excellent JS resource
    • 4.2 JavaScript & TypeScript crash-course (Office.js-tailored)
      • 4.2.1 Variables
      • 4.2.2 Variables & TypeScript
      • 4.2.3 Strings
      • 4.2.4 Assignments, comparisons, and logical operators
      • 4.2.5 if, for, while
      • 4.2.6 Arrays
      • 4.2.7 Complex objects & JSON
      • 4.2.8 Functions
      • 4.2.9 Functions & TypeScript
      • 4.2.10 Scope, closure, and avoiding polluting the global namespace
      • 4.2.11 Misc.
      • 4.2.12 jQuery
    • 4.3 Promises Primer
      • 4.3.1 Chaining Promises, the right way
      • 4.3.2 Creating a new Promise
      • 4.3.3 Promises, try/catch, and async/await
  • 5 Office.js APIs: Core concepts
    • 5.1 Canonical code sample: reading data and performing actions on the document
    • 5.2 Excel.run (Word.run, etc.)
    • 5.3 Proxy objects: the building-blocks of the Office 2016 API model
      • 5.3.1 Setting document properties using proxy objects
      • 5.3.2 The processing on the JavaScript side
      • 5.3.3 The processing on the host application’s side
      • 5.3.4 Loading properties: the bare basics
      • 5.3.5 De-mystifying context.sync()
    • 5.4 Handling errors
      • 5.4.1 The basics of Office.js errors
      • 5.4.2 Don’t forget the user!
      • 5.4.3 Some practical advice
    • 5.5 Recap: the four basic principles of Office.js
  • 6 Implementation details, if you want to know how it really works
    • 6.1 The Request Context queue
    • 6.2 The host application’s response
    • 6.3 Back on the proxy object’s territory
    • 6.4 A special (but common) case: objects without IDs
  • 7 More core load concepts
    • 7.1 Scalar vs. navigation properties – and their impact on load
    • 7.2 Loading and re-loading
    • 7.3 Loading collections
    • 7.4 Understanding the PropertyNotLoaded error
      • 7.4.1 What does it even mean?
      • 7.4.2 Signaling your intentions: an analogy
      • 7.4.3 Common mistake: re-invoking get methods (and in general, loading on methods versus properties)
      • 7.4.4 Another common mistake: loading nonexistent properties
      • 7.4.5 A rarer and more befuddling case: when using an object across run-s
    • 7.5 Methods that return “primitive” types (strings, numbers, etc). E.g.: tables.getCount(), chart.getImage(), etc.
  • 8 More core sync concepts
    • 8.1 Real-world example of multiple sync-calls
    • 8.2 When to sync
    • 8.3 The final context.sync (in a multi-sync scenario)
    • 8.4 A more complex context.sync example:
    • 8.5 Avoiding leaving the document in a “dirty” state
  • 9 Checking if an object exists
    • 9.1 Checking via exception-handling – a somewhat heavy-handed approach
    • 9.2 A gentler check: the *OrNullObject methods & properties
      • 9.2.1 Case 1: Performing an action, and no-op-ing otherwise
      • 9.2.2 Case 2: Checking whether the object exists, and changing behavior accordingly
  • 10 Excel.run (Word.run, etc.) advanced topics
    • 10.1 What does “.run” do, and why do I need it?
    • 10.2 Using objects outside the “linear” Excel.run or Word.run flow (e.g., in a button-click callback, in a setInterval, etc.)
      • 10.2.1 Re-hydrating an existing Request Context: the overall pattern, proper error-handling, object.track, and cleanup of tracked objects.
      • 10.2.2 A common, and infuriatingly silent, mistake: queueing up actions on the wrong request context
      • 10.2.3 Resuming with multiple objects
      • 10.2.4 Why can’t we have a single global request context, and be one happy family?
  • 11 Other API Topics
  • 12 The practical aspects of building an Add-in
    • 12.1 Walkthrough: Building an Add-in using Visual Studio
    • 12.2 Getting started with building TypeScript-based Add-ins
      • 12.2.1 Using Visual Studio
      • 12.2.2 Using Yeoman generator & Node/NPM
    • 12.3 Debugging: the bare basics
    • 12.4 IntelliSense
    • 12.5 Office versions: Office 2016 vs. Office 365 (MSI vs. Click-to-Run); Deferred vs. Current channels; Insider tracks
    • 12.6 Office.js API versioning
      • 12.6.1 The JavaScript files
      • 12.6.2 The host capabilities
      • 12.6.3 The Beta Endpoint
      • 12.6.4 How can you know than an API is “production-ready”?
  • 13 Appendix A: Using plain ES5 JavaScript (no async/await)
    • 13.1 Passing in functions to Promise .then-functions
    • 13.2 JavaScript-only version of the canonical code sample
    • 13.3 JavaScript-specific sync concepts
      • 13.3.1 A JavaScript-based multi-sync template
      • 13.3.2 Returning the context.sync() promise
      • 13.3.3 Passing values across .then-functions
      • 13.3.4 JavaScript example of multi-sync calls
  • 14 Appendix B: Miscellanea
    • 14.1 Script Lab: the story behind the project
  • Notes

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